A 31-year-old woman was in custody Friday in connection with a police chase that began in the south suburbs and ended with the death of a 10-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, officials said.
Officer David L. Harris, 42, was just finishing his shift and was on his way home, authorities said. He was a member of a saturation unit dispatched to high-crime areas on the South Side, sources said. He was still in uniform when emergency crews found him.
The chase started about 1 a.m. when officers in Calumet Park saw the driver of a van commit several traffic violations, a police source said. They learned the license plate on the van belonged to a different vehicle — a Mercury — and began pursuing it, sources said.
The chase ended with a crash in the 8700 block of South Lafayette Avenue just off the Dan Ryan Expy., police said. Two Calumet Park police vehicles were on the scene, too. Illinois State Police vehicles were in the area of the crash preparing for a crime “saturation” mission, but they’re not believed to have been involved in the chase, a state police spokeswoman said.
Police allegedly found marijuana in the van and arrested the driver, a Calumet Park woman who has a history of driving without a license as well as theft convictions. A passenger, a 33-year-old Harvey man, also was arrested, sources said.
The Calumet Park Police Department is investigating the fatal accident with help from the Chicago Police Department.
“Last night’s traffic crash, which killed a Chicago Police officer, is a terrible tragedy,” Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said in a statement. “He dedicated his life to protecting our residents and communities, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues.”
During his career with the Chicago Police, Harris earned 87 department awards, including two department commendations, a Joint Operations Award, and a Unit Meritorious Performance Award, officials said.
Harris was a Maywood police officer between 1997 and 2003 before joining the Chicago Police Department. He is remembered in Maywood for his involvement in several high-profile cases.
Harris helped capture a man suspected of shooting a Bellwood police officer and Harris was involved in a shootout with bank robbers, said Maywood Police spokesman Pirsia Allen.
“He did his job well and received several commendations for outstanding work,” Allen said. “He wanted to make a change in the community as a police officer.”A lawyer for the village of Calumet Park declined to answer questions about the pursuit that led to Harris’ death, saying he didn’t have all the facts because it’s still under investigation. Police sources said the pursuit was called off before the accident, but could not provide details.
Ronald Rockwell, a neighbor of Harris in the Ashburn neighborhood on the South Side, said he’s angry about the crash and doesn’t understand why officers would chase a vehicle from the south suburbs to Chicago.
“I thought there were rules of engagement when it comes to chases,” said Rockwell, 62. “Now, his two young sons are without a father and his wife is without a husband.”
Harris was known for helping his neighbors, sometimes shoveling their sidewalks — including Rockwell’s — after the frequent snow storms this winter.
Harris and his family moved to the neighborhood about four years ago. Harris liked to exercise and he frequently was seen playing sports with his sons outside their home.
The younger man often sought out advice from the older Rockwell.
“He always admired my lawn. So, he asked me how he could keep his lawn like that . . . so I gave him tips on how to keep his lawn nice and green and lush, and from there, we borrowed tools from each other,” Rockwell said.
“Just a great man,” he said, wiping away tears. “The world has lost a good soul, a good spirit, and we have so few. It’s just a waste.”
C.W. Harris, 42, also lived on the block with David Harris, who is no relation.
“The biggest thing about him, he was a great neighbor and a family man. He did his job and watched out for his children and his wife,” Harris said. “I remember him being my friend.”
Contributing: Sam Charles and George Slefo